No. 3 seed Connecticut vs. No. 1 seed Notre Dame
Game 15 – Final, March 6, 2012
XL Center – Hartford, Conn.
Notre Dame Postgame Quotes
Head Coach Geno Auriemma
“You know, when you play in these kind of games and you go through what it takes first to get to this point of the season, knowing what you have to go through for the last five months and then you find yourself in this situation, as did Notre Dame and two teams that know each other so well, you just hope that it's a great game. You hope that both teams play their hearts out. I know my players are exhausted, and they should be. I think they're a little bit more grown up now than they were a week ago, and they've come a long way. It seems like they've come a long way in a short period of time since last week, but really they've been building on this since September. It just wasn't apparent what it was going to be like, and now they found out what it can be like. I'm thrilled for them. The championship, I know they're exhausted about it, but if you were in our locker room, you would know that the championship is important, but I think the other stuff, the intangible stuff that I think came out of this weekend, is maybe even more important. So I want to congratulate them, the players, Notre Dame for an unbelievable year. I told Muffet (McGraw) to do what they did in our league this year was pretty amazing. To do what they did with their schedule is pretty amazing. I think we've got two of the best teams in America coming out of our conference. I'll put our conference up against any other conference in America, and I don't think we take a back seat to anybody, ever. And I think tonight, you saw why.”
Reading some of your comments yesterday, you mentioned about the UCONN mentality and how it had kind of gotten lost a little bit. Do you think it was maybe found a little bit tonight?
“I think last night and tonight, for sure (it was found). Those of you that follow our team and watched us play throughout the season, it was a little different approach last night and tonight. You could see that something had been missing when you compare that to our St. John's game, our last Notre Dame game, our Marquette game. There are just a lot of games that just didn't play out the way we had hoped. With these young players, if you're not careful, they think that winning is Connecticut basketball. So we would look at them and say, ‘Coach, we're like 25-4, whatever we are, 25-3. Why do I get the sense you're not happy, Coach?’ Because in their minds, we're winning. We're good. Then the Notre Dame game comes up and reminds them, no, that's not how you measure whether you're good or not. You measure whether you're good whether you're playing Connecticut basketball other ways, not just by whether you won or lost. So, yeah, we got it back last night. We got it back a little more tonight, and hopefully now … we can hold on to it for three weekends, right? It's three weekends now. … Three weeks from now I'll be done. I hope it goes three weeks. Could be done next weekend.”
You had a ten point lead in the first half. They obviously cut it to one without Natalie Novosel and without Devereaux Peters. What was their message and demeanor at the half?
“Actually it wasn't bad. I've learned my lesson with this group. There are not a lot of tough guys in this group. I can't go in there like when we had Diana(Taurasi), and Sveta (Svetlana Abrosimova), and Tina (Charles) and those guys when they were older. I can't go in there and rant and rave and start throwing things around. Because back then they'd throw it back at me. I'd have to duck because it would be flying back at me. These guys, you have to be really careful how you deal with them. So what was disappointing was that we worked so hard to get that 27-17 lead. It was so taxing. I mean, we just played our butts off. Then all of a sudden, we just took the foot off the gas pedal, and we just stopped. They're not going to go away. This isn't like any team you're playing. This is Notre Dame. So when they came at us, we started doing the same thing that cost us last Monday. Everybody was becoming tentative and afraid to make the next pass. Wondering where our next score was going to come from. And the last three was my fault. That was my fault. That was totally my fault, and we went in at halftime and talked about, you know what, I think we're better than them tonight.
They've been better than us a lot the last couple months, but I just said I think we're better than them tonight. They're not going to lose. Notre Dame's not going to lose this game. We have to beat them. So let's not go out there and play like we played the last seven minutes like, ‘oh, my God, who is going to make a shot?’ We need a couple heroes tonight because they're not going to lose. They're like we used to be a couple years ago. We're not going to lose to anybody. You have to beat us. I think that's the one thing that feels really good is I don't think Notre Dame I mean, I'm sure they feel a certain way about it. I don't know, but we beat them. I don't think they lost to us. I think we beat them. They might feel like they lost to us, but we feel like we beat them.”
Sophomore Center Stephanie Dolson
A big part of this game was the rebounding tonight. Can you talk about the difference that you guys made in the lane and were you guys able to handle that?
“Well, we knew coming out into this game that like you said it was going to be a huge emphasis for us. I think we did a great job of just making sure all the guards were boxed out, making sure Devereaux (Peters) was boxed out. We just went after the ball. We had the mindset tonight of being so aggressive. We went after every, every ball. We had so many hustle plays. It wasn't just rebounds. It was everything.”
Freshman Forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis
Can you just address the way you guys were able to fight tonight and make the little things work well and come out and get this win?
“I think we just really wanted it, you know. We've been working towards this, like Coach said, since the beginning of the season. We felt like with the losses that we had, it all had to do with the mindset that we had. So tonight we came out tough, we came out aggressive, and I think we just wanted it enough and we played our hearts out tonight.”
Sophomore Guard Bria Hartley
The fire you played with tonight, does that kind of go back to Monday night when the starters went off the court with about 3:00 left in that game? Was there a message that was received and implemented tonight?
“I think it proves that we had some fight in. Every time we step on the court we want to go out and prove that we play hard. We're going to fight, and we're going to fight to the end no matter what happens. I think us sitting out that last three minutes, didn't seem like we had that much fight. So tonight, no matter what we did, no matter if Notre Dame went on a run or anything, we made sure we came back and made plays.”
Senior Guard Tiffany Hayes
Can Tiffany, for a player who didn't lose a game in her first two years here, how much did losing three straight to Notre Dame weigh on your mind? How does it affect your teammates too?
“It's hard to lose any game, and to lose to one team three straight times doesn't sit well. I don't think it would sit well with anyone. But with this team, we just knew we were better than we had played in those last couple games. So we just wanted to come out tonight, and like we already said, we wanted to fight until the end.”
Last week we heard how important it was for Notre Dame to win that first championship for Coach McGraw. How important was it to you guys to get number 800 here and win the championship for Coach Auriemma?
“It was very important. To be honest, I think he's one of the best coaches, and he definitely deserved it. I think we owe him that much. We've been through a lot this year as a team, and it was just nice to get the win at home in front of a big crowd. Yeah, we got the championship.”
Notre Dame Postgame Quotes
Head Coach Muffet McGraw
“I thought Connecticut played really well. They outplayed us today. Particularly (Kaleena) Mosqueda-Lewis and (Bria) Hartley really, really played extremely well. I thought it was a hard fought battle and a really good game. I thought in the first half we were only down one without having Natalie Novosel in the game for a big chunk in the half. I thought we'd be better in the second half, and we just didn't shoot it well. We shot better from the three point line than two point, and couldn't even make a free throw. I think we really did some things that didn't help us, but they came out and really won the game. It was a great game. They just played better.”
Kelly Faris had a couple of big threes. Can you talk about the lift she gives them when she's coming out and the two threes she made?
“I thought the one after the travel was critical. That was critical. It was a big swing in the game. It could have been our ball, and instead they missed it, and she made the shot. So I thought that was a critical point in the game. Also the other one I thought was a dagger, the other one she made. So that was poor defense on our part.”
What's your first read on this team following this loss, and how you think they're going to handle this next week and a half?
“I think we'll respond well. I think we have responded well after losses. We haven't had a lot of practice, but I think they don't like to lose. So they'll be ready to go. It could be a good thing.”
Talk about UCONN in the last five minutes of this game compared to the last five minutes in the two previous match ups?
“Well, they're on the floor the whole time. I think the difference is the confidence level. They got a lead, which was key. Then they used the shot clock very well. Even when they weren't scoring, they were getting rebounds and getting it back. We had the ball for two minutes, it seemed, and until we eventually fouled them. They managed the game better, they managed the clock better. Of Course when you have the lead it's a little easier to do that.”
Do you sense this rivalry and this match up becoming huge for women's basketball?
“It's a great rivalry. We look forward to it. It's great having two great teams like this in the league that can really prepare each other for the NCAA Tournament. So I like playing them every year.”
Coming out of this tournament, what is your biggest concern as far as what you need to work on to get ready for the NCAAs?
“I don't have a lot of concerns coming out of this game. I'm looking at the shooting and saying we missed a whole bunch of shots that we normally make, and they did play great defensively, but they didn't guard us at the free throw line. I think we can shoot the ball better and then the rebounding. That was key. We really need to do a better job rebounding. They really beat us up on the boards.”
You played them six times in the finals now and lost all six. What's it going to take for you guys to get over the hump of beating them in this championship game, do you think?
“Well, I think this is probably maybe the only time we've been a No. 1 seed. It's tough to beat a good team three times. I don't know. I mean, we won here Monday, so I don't really think that we have to do anything different. I don't think there is more pressure on us. I don't think we did anything different. I just think they outplayed us.”
Can emotion impact the game? Auriemma's going for his 800th there. They've lost to you twice, home court, is there a wave of emotion that you have to battle in this kind of situation?
“I think we have to battle our own emotion. I think we got frustrated early with some things that weren't working, and now we get into foul trouble. I don't think we handled it as well as we have. All year we've been a poised, constant team all year long, and I didn't feel that as much today. I think our emotion was not as good, I think, as it's been.”
Senior Guard Natalie Novosel
Can you talk about what the next week and a half is going to be like for you guys? The resolve you're going to have to have to put this behind you and move forward?
“Yeah, it's going to be really important to forget this game and move on from it. We are taking it one game at a time now. I think we're just going to get back in the gym and just prepare ask get back to fundamentals and play our own basketball and forget this game.”
How much does this loss take away from the great things that you've done this season? Does it diminish it at all in your eyes?
“It's definitely one of our goals and we wanted to achieve it. But at the same time, we still have the biggest one of them all ahead of us. We got knocked down, but we're going to get back up. We're going to look forward and try to get the big one.”
What did you see as the biggest difference for Bria Hartley and Kaleena Mosqueda Lewis tonight as opposed to a week or a day ago, the difference in the game?
“We allowed them to get some looks early on and gave them confidence. They were able to get in a flow offensively, and we did a poor job of communicating on screens. The girls were able to knock down some shots and get their confidence. That's what enabled their momentum.”
Junior Guard Skylar Diggins
Would you now say that you look at UCONN as a rival?
“I think it's always been that. We meet them so many times and they're such a good team. They always have a good program. As many times as we meet them, I would call it that.”
This year is a little different than last year following the championship game because you were the No. 1 seed this year. Can you talk about what this next week is going to be like for you, how you recover from this one and the mindset you have to have going into the tournament?
“This team's not a team that hangs their head. I'm sure they'll be talking tomorrow and being in the gym and watching film and seeing what we can learn from things like that. We'll be back in the gym tomorrow, right back at it like Natalie (Novosel) said. The biggest goal of them all is ahead of us. We're only guaranteed one game. This is a great game going into the tournament. This is a Final Four team, a championship caliber team. It's great for us to play in the BIG EAST and play these competitive games going into the tournament. We'll learn from it when we get in the gym tomorrow and throughout the week, and we have to practice hard and get ready for that first tournament game.”
Sophomore Guard Kayla McBride
Can you talk about that second half? What did UCONN do defensively that hurt your shooting?
“I think they knew our offense, and they were just kind of keeping us out of it instead of attacking it. I think we kind of got complacent a little bit, and just weren't in our attack mode that we're usually in. They were just boxing out and rebounding.”